April 11, 2022
“I Was Right There. And I Didn’t Know.”
Names in this story have been changed for privacy reasons.
“Where were the parents?” That’s what I see in the comments section whenever I read about child abuse in the news. A lot of people question where the parents were and how they could have let this happen to their children—lots of blaming. But let me tell you, nobody can blame a parent more than they blame themselves. It’s torture.
When I became a dad my life changed completely. I was young at the time and it felt like I grew up overnight. When things didn’t work out with my ex, I became the primary caregiver for my daughter and I was so grateful. She was, and is, my whole world. I would do anything to protect her. What I didn’t know back then was who I had to protect her from. I thought I was protecting her from strangers—not imagining I had to protect her from her own mother. I don’t intend to share any details of what my little girl endured in her mother’s home, but it’s something that no child should ever have to endure and what most people cannot even imagine. It’s something I can never erase from my own mind, but now my life’s mission is to erase it from my sweet daughter’s. “Where were the parents” you ask? I was right there. And I didn’t know.
When the police came knocking on my door, my life suddenly changed, and I was thrown into a world I didn’t understand. I felt powerless, lost, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I thought that I’d never be able to put all the puzzle pieces together to even have a hope of finding a path to recovery, to heal from the abuse that had torn through our lives.
What happened next, after the abuse was uncovered, made us feel like victims all over again. There were a lot of kind people who spoke with us, but we never knew who we were going to have to talk to next and we rarely saw the same person twice. Once people got what they needed from us to do their own job, we didn’t hear from them again. We felt very alone, like we were invisible, inadequate, or disposable. And, all that time, I couldn’t help thinking that those who hurt children and cause all this pain, get more support than we do! In the end, we were left with a pamphlet listing a number of places where we could seek help. But by this point I could barely get through the day, never mind finding the energy to seek out services. I’m not sure I could’ve even brought myself to tell people what had happened. I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t. Getting through the day was all I could focus on.
Throughout the investigation, it felt like no one was on the same page. We had to repeat the horrific details too many times to count, starting from the beginning each time. I started to think the reason we had to do this was because I wasn’t doing a good enough job, that maybe if I had spoken better or explained our story more clearly, then maybe we would have had more help. The constant repetition, and the consistent lack of support or acknowledgement, made me feel like it was my fault we weren’t getting help.
I was connected to Toba Centre after most of the investigation was over. It was at this point when things finally started to change for us. The people at Toba Centre understood what we were going through. We finally felt supported.
I know that Toba Centre has a vision for a new approach to child abuse response and plans for a new centre, and I cannot tell you what a huge difference it will make. For victims and their families, it will be life-altering to have a safe and comprehensive support system. To have people whose primary goal is to help you get through the trauma and recover is essential, and that support does not exist today. It is a sad truth that victims receive less support, less recovery resources, and in a less organized manner than that of their abusers.
Most importantly, it is reassuring to know there are people who will support us over time. There’s no schedule or timeline for healing. They believe in us, and remind us that we can, and will, recover. Sometimes you need people to believe in you, especially when you’re hurt so badly that you just don’t know how to believe in yourself anymore.
Toba Centre makes me and my child feel valued as a human-beings.
They make me feel like they genuinely want to hear what I have to say and want to know how we are doing.
They offer guidance and regular check-ins.
They are also organized and knowledgeable about systems I know nothing about, removing a large burden of stress.
They make me feel empowered, like I have a team and a support system that has my back.
They initiate a lot of communication which is helping remove that feeling of being invisible or disposable.
And, they are so organized and know what the next steps are, which helps alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed.
I now feel empowered and hopeful that we can heal from the trauma we have faced.
For myself, today, I can’t say that I don’t still blame myself. Or, that I don’t go over and over in my mind, asking whether I could have somehow prevented what happened. But, day by day, it is getting better. The less hidden away we are, and the more open we become, the more hopeful we feel. My daughter deserves a childhood and my only priority is to give that to her. I know now that she can be okay and that is all I need.